This is two CDs of musically solid tunes, with incredible flow and skill with words. I like his songs about respect, and being strong, and trying to do good in the world. I can handle the language (can’t hurt these ears). But I just don’t dig tunes with regressive posturing, boasting and violent ideas, by anybody. I understand it’s his experience, and I know there’s a time and a place, I really do. I just prefer the message of Keep Ya Head Up to something like Hit Em Up.
Right. So it makes total sense that I post Slayer, Yaz, and then 2Pac f. Outlawz in a row, right? Sure! Can’t say my listening isn’t varied, lately…
Every time I listen to 2pac, I wonder how I’m gonna write it up. I’m no expert on the man, his work, or his legacy. But then I find a copy, like this one, real cheap. The internet says it’s awesome, so I go for it and here we are.
Here’s a blurb: “Still I Rise, the third posthumous release of “new” material by Tupac Shakur, is not surprisingly a mixed bag. Recorded in 1996 with the Outlawz, the disc at its best does showcase the power of ‘Pac. More politically acute (and complexly anti-Clinton) than most gangsta rap even attempts to be, “Letter to the President” and “The Good Die Young” find the star turning in some of his most focused lyrics and performances. Elsewhere, he often cedes the mic to other voices; the collaborations that result–“Secretz of War”, “Tattoo Tears”, the title cut–are the equivalent of campfire songs for the latter-day black cowboy. Dominated by phat beats and familiar imagery, they entertain but hardly illuminate.” (Amazon)
I agree with all of that except the bit about failing to illuminate. I’ve always said that there were 2pacs… one was a gangbanger and a roughrider. The other talked about equality and hope and peace. I always like the latter, and have no time for the bullshit former (rapper posturing make me so tired). When 2pac gets it right, he really gets it really right.
That blurb mentions Letter To The President… It was written to Bill Clinton, but it could be applicable to any term, even this current shitshow. The Good Die Young is the same. Nothing ever changes and we’re doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn from it. Heard that before? Yup.
Musically, 2pac always had a soulful, funky, sweet backing sound and, as usual, I love that side of it. The rapping is laid back, almost lulling, but the words keep you with it, always moving, always thinking.
Apparently, “Baby Don’t Cry (Keep Ya’ Head Up II),” featuring vocals from Heavynn, Erica and Tiana of H.E.A.T., a female pop group, as well as E.D.I. Mean and Young Noble, was the only single from the album.
Though I’m no expert, I’d say this is a solid release. It held my attention, and it had a lot to say, which I would expect from 2pac, who I always considered one of the better conscious rappers (when he wasn’t posturing, see above). And though a lot of what they had to say here was sad, depressing, bleak, I came away with a sense of hope, that if folks would just wake the hell up, things could improve. Hence the album title, Still I Rise, eh?
I was digging around and found a box of CDs I’d set aside as possible Hit/Quit albums ages ago. They’ve been seperate from the main collection long enough that they’re not even in my alphabetical list. Oy.
So, had I remembered that I had all of these discs set aside, this 2Pac album would actually have been All The Everything Pt.3, and 54-40 would have been Pt.4. Ah well, as long as I’m covering stuff, it’s all good. Also, this seems to be the only 2Pac album currently in my collection, which is odd. I know I’ve had more in the past…
1997 – R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (2CD)
I have already reviewed this album right here, almost exactly two years ago. Funny thing is, I wrote up a whole review yesterday before discovering this, and I realized I’d said exactly the same damn thing now! Apparently I am consistent on this set and, if you’re interested, all you need to do is click that link and go see what I wrote.
Short version for this post, though: This was way too long, too full of stuff that should never have seen release (either too angry* or too juvenile). There are decent tracks, they’re just buried under the more plentiful dubious stuff. I dug the music, though. Maybe it could have been a single disc, with the worst stuff left off. I shouldn’t be too hard on it, there were tracks that I liked, but overall, I really won’t be needing to keep this. A hits set would be all I’d need. Quit.
* A lot of the angry tracks come across as all talk and posturing, just words that sound tough and cool.
Kudos to you if you clicked on this one! I know a bunch of you are dyed in the wool rawkers, so the hip hop may not do much for you. But I’ve got a real melting pot going on around here, and rap is just another of the components of my complete breakfast, so for me a post like this ain’t much of a surprise.
I know what I like when I hear it, and I was idling wondering if I could make a Top Ten artists list. Sure I can!
Now, I know that these are tricky waters. Some will say “where is Public Enemy, or Run-DMC, or Grandmaster Flash…” or any of the other classics. Or there’ll be newer artists or whole genres of hip hop I’ve skipped, etc etc. Well, those are surely great too. But this is my list of what I would choose to put on, when the mood moves me. Many were considered. And so it goes.
Alright, here we go:
1 The Roots
2 Wu-Tang Clan
3 Beastie Boys
4 Jurassic 5
5 A Tribe Called Quest
8 Mos Def
10 Notorious B.I.G
11 Honourable mention goes to: Eminem*
12 The artist I most need to get to (but haven’t yet): Talib Kweli**
13 The new artist I most want to try: Kendrick Lamar***
14 The one I should probably include but I just don’t feel it when I hear him: Jay-Z****
* Eminem has a lot to say, and he pulls no punches. But I can’t do his anger all the time, so he doesn’t hit my 10 list because sometimes he just makes me tired.
**And by extension, since I’ve already included Mos Def, I should also get to Black Star.
*** I have no idea if this is a wise decision, his is just a name that keeps coming up.
**** This is probably an unpopular choice, but so what. I don’t dig Jay-Z enough. Go make your own list.
Based on that Top Ten list, you can tell I like it when rappers have something to say, and I like it jazzier and with a sense of fun. I don’t have any time for violence for the sake of violence, which is why 2Pac and Biggie sit at the bottom of the list – only about half of their stuff is brilliant for me. I also have zero time for a lot of the empty, plastic, boastful rap that seems to be popular ad nauseum.
What are your faves? Do you agree with this list? Disagree? Are you ambivalent?
My list is a total sausagefest, so if anybody can recommend any great lady rappers that might fit my likes, drop a comment!
Do you have suggestions for any other acts I need to check out? Let me know!
2Pac – R U Still Down? (Remember Me)
I am far from an expert on the output of 2Pac, but I’ve certainly heard enough to come away with the impression that, to date, I’ve liked about half of it. I like the songs where he has something positive to say, when he questions the idiocy of the thug life and calls for respect for women. I dig that. I don’t have much time for the exact opposite thug side, the bitches, guns, n***a I’m the greatest posturing garbage. Total yawn-fest.
Given the latter, this set would be a tougher sell to me. It’s a 2CD collection of tracks culled posthumously from left-over tracks for the Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., Thug Life: Volume 1, and Me Against The World albums, back when he was young thug life and talkin’ shit. It’s a huge set, and it seemed to take forever to listen to the whole thing. I remember thinking I’d have been better to play CD1, wait a couple of days, and then play CD2. It was a lot to digest.
What wasn’t diminished in this marathon, though, were the superb grooves of the music. A lot of attention was paid, here, to putting down solid musical lines that have a real classic smooth soul feel to them while still having current hip hop beats.
The majority of the songs, here, are the gangsta side I really can’t feel. The music is strong, and he has great flow and a distinctive voice, but the content of the lyrics is just tiring. There are still highlight tracks, like I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto (which is here in two versions). Nothing To Lose says it features TLC, but apparently just on buried background vocals. It’s still a decent track. I liked Do For Love (f. Eric Williams) too. Probably my favourite track here was the last track, Only Fear Death. It’s the best of the rougher stuff, and it’s just so dark and heavy compared to the rest.
Maybe it’s just that my life is a total disconnect from what he’s talking about in these songs. Or maybe it’s just not what I want to hear right now, and later down the line I’ll love it and wonder why I wrote this about it, but for right now I don’t feel the need to dig this deep and hear all the outtakes. They didn’t make the albums for some reason, you know? Right now, I think I’m better off with half of a Hits set and calling it a day.